Ok it’s time to start having a look at the Teams, starting with the Finns who are sending Evert Aartsen and Tuukka Rasanen (Open Men), Evert Aartsen, Timo Harju and Jari Ronkainen (Senior Men) and Evert Aartsen Jnr and Kasimir Ronkainen (Junior Boys). Evert Aartsen placed 11th in Open and 3rd in Seniors in the last World Championships with Timo Harju coming 30th and 16th respectively. The weather in Otaki will not suit the Finns who are used to having to crack the ice before training in sub zero temperatures – perhaps there should be a separate “Arctic Circle” competition for teams like Finland, Sweden and Canada.
As usual, the Aussies are sending a big team with 11 Juniors, 4 Seniors and 4 Open skiers. The Junior team are a bit of an unknown quantity but the Senior and Open Teams both look very solid. The Senior Team is composed of Cameron Smith, Cathy Raynor, Gisella Halasz and Warren Wark while the Open Team includes Ashleigh Stebbeings, Jamie Payne, Peter O’Neill and Stacey Green. Gisella Halasz and Ashleigh Stebbeings are probably their best chances for individual gold medals. While not giving the judges a hard time, Geoff Davis, the Aussie team manager, will be attempting to recoup his travel costs at the poker table.
The USA have the biggest team in the Championships with big stars and strength in depth. They include the World Open Men’s Overall Champion, Keith St Onge, the World Senior Men’s Overall No 2, Mike Salber, the World Senior Women’s Overall No2, Andrea Eggert and the World Junior Girls Overall No 2, Elaine Heller. Surprisingly a number of their strong skiers are not making the trip but they remain strong favourites to pick up a mass of individual and team medals. Keith St Onge and Mike Salber will both be aiming for gold in the Open and Senior Men’s Divisions respectively while Elaine Heller and Andrea Eggert will be doing the same in Open and Senior Women.
Led by Team Captain Paul MacDonald and Team Manager Richard Gray, the Canadians are bringing a strong team with stars like Gordie Croteau, Don Schwartz and Dwayne Rowland in the Men’s team and Caitlyn Rowland, Danielle Tipping and Nicole Blackmore in the Women’s Team – where’s Cory?. Paul MacDonald was placed 4th Overall in the last World Championships so will be aiming for a medal position this time round. Adam Stiller is shooting anything that moves back in Canada so will not be making the trip. Dwayne Rowland has only recently finished filming Die Hard 5 and will be available for autographs during the Championships.
South Africa is fielding a small but exceptionally strong team this time round comprising World ranked No 1, Heinrich Sam and World ranked No 2, Andre De Villiers. Alongside Heinrich and Andre are Garth Strydom, Lize-Mari Verster, Pascal Bauwens and Shianne Addinall. No Senior Skiers but the team should do well in both Open and Junior. In fact, I’d tip them to win the Open Team Gold Medal, which, I think, would be the first time that this has not been won by the USA – in Andre De Villiers, Heinrich Sam and Zane De Villiers they have guys who can trick over 7,000, slalom over 18 and jump over 20m. At the Junior level, Pascal Bauwens is coming on, particularly if he can improve his tricks and jumping.
The GB Team comprises David Small, Emily Goldie, Aiden Finch, Hannah Bullard and Paul Turner. Unfortunately, 3 of GB’s top footers, Gregg Meehan, Dan Goldie and Ben Harris, couldn’t make the trip. Based on the 2007 World Rankings, both David Small and Emily Goldie are placed outside the Overall medal positions but will be hoping that their recent training will improve their chances. At the 2006 Worlds, Dave came 2nd Overall, winning the Jump while Emily came 3rd Overall.
This time round the Netherlands has a one man team in Mathijs Zielman who is down to compete in both the Junior and Open divisions. It’s a shame we haven’t seen Devin Nolen around for a while but he’s now with the Dutch Airborne and has almost done as many jumps as Dan Goldie.
The big unknown quantity! China is making its first appearance at a World Barefoot Championships and is sending a team of 3 men and 3 women comprising Gang Yang, Jia Tao, Jiayu Li, Kaiyong Huang, Xin Yang and Yu Song. Well I guess that having dominated the recent Olympics, they’re looking for new challenges.
Sweden are represented by Dennis Andersen and Jacob Versteegh. Jacob is now at University in Los Angeles so should have had more opportunities to train. No recent scores to report.
From Germany we’ve got Marc Niebuhr, Stefan Worpel, Terry Gregory and Svenja Hempelmann. I don’t know anything about Marc or Stefan but Terry competed a while back to a high level and I think won gold at Junior level. Svenja is ranked 8th overall in the 2007 World rankings and came 4th overall in the 2006 World Championships.
The French team comprise Clement Maillard, Alexandra Vigoureux, Flora Giacuzzo, Geoffroy Dupuis, Bruno Giacuzzo, Jean Marie Poncey and Patrice Beekandt. Unfortunately, Patrick Wehner, 3rd overall at the 2006 World Championships, Florent Pigeat and Philippe Renoux can’t make the trip.
The home team footers are 20 strong and are expected to put in their usual solid performance. Good to see that all the usual suspects are competing. The Kiwi Open Team is comprised of Bevan Kelly, Kelly O’Donnel. Nick Hamblyn, Ryan Groen, Stephanie Hamblyn and Phil Leach.